April 2010

Compounding Pharmacist Solves Medication Problems

Author: Sheila M. Stephens, Pharm.D.

Blinding migraine headaches dictate that you rest in a quiet, dark room while the demands of your life continue to press steadily forward, the medication that brings relief is limited due to the acetaminophen component. Take too much and the possibility of liver damage results.

For years you have depended on a natural thyroid medication that treats the symptoms of hypothyroidism. It has restored your energy and vitality. When you go to refill your prescription, you are told the manufacturer is no longer making the drug. There are no viable substitutes.

Hot flashes, mood swings, weight gain and depression seem to hover like a cloud as you approach mid-life. Your sex life is a distant memory. You have responsibilities that are multiplying with your work, aging parents and the stress of too many demands. Is this what you have to look forward to?

This is where Dr. Sheila Stephens, Pharm.D. steps in. She is a compounding pharmacist who specializes in customized medications that are designed to meet the needs of the individual.

Stephens Compounding Pharmacy is the only pharmacy on Hilton Head Island that exclusively compounds medicines—one of roughly 400 nationwide. It is a method of apothecary that brings the science and the art of pharmaceutics together.

According to the National Council for Patient Information and Education, about 50 percent of the two billion prescriptions filled each year are not taken correctly. The failure to take the correct drug or to take it on the correct schedule is costly both to the individual and the public. The Schering Report estimates that 10 percent of hospital admissions are due to noncompliance, costing $15.2 billion and impacting 3.5 million people. These staggering statistics can be distilled down to a few common denominators. People want medications that are effective. When the intended results are less than expected, therapy is many times abandoned. The cost of the medication relative to the benefit may not be evident.

Dr. Stephens works with this concept in focus. The human body is created to protect and heal itself. Elaborate immune systems provide a barrier against assault. When these systems are bridged by disease, injury or age, the treatments that are most likely to be effective are those that match natural defense mechanisms. Drugs that reach the targeted site with minimal impact to surrounding systems provide the greatest impact. Certain cancers such as colon and breast have treatments that are now targeted to genetic disposition. The “one-size-fits-all” is no longer a valid option in health care.

Compounded prescriptions have been used to treat those who suffer from migraine headaches or arthritis to neuropathies. The compounding pharmacist works with the physician and the patient to develop unique combinations of drugs in delivery systems that have the ability to deliver the drug to the site of action. It is much like a lock and key type of effect. When the receptor (lock) on the targeted organ or nerve is activated by the drug (key), the body will then respond with the release of neurotransmitters that may provide anti-inflammatory response or release of natural endorphins.

Drug shortages are a common theme in medicine. The Food and Drug Administration has a section of their Web site devoted to this notification. There have been shortages of antiviral medications for the prevention of influenza in dosage forms for children. A drug used in the treatment of herpes simplex has been unavailable due to a raw materials shortage. The shortage of the naturally occurring thyroid is of major importance. Many times, the compounding pharmacist has solutions to these dilemmas that will provide continuation of treatment.

Menopause and andropause are a function of the aging process in women and men. The decrease in the production of estrogen for women and testosterone for men has layered effects on the body. Estrogen is a key hormone along with progesterone in women that may begin to decline at an early age of mid-30s. The impact on the body may be felt in vasomotor symptoms such as night sweats, emotional volatility, and memory and energy loss. The loss of estrogen with age is important in that all organs of the body from the brain, eyes, gut and vasculature have estrogen receptors. The loss of estrogen is significant to providing balance in the body system. Replacement treatment with hormone therapy has a history that has been confusing, if not contradictory, at times. The compounding pharmacist is a source of information and provides help in understanding what options are available.

Stephens Compounding Pharmacy is affiliated with Professional Compounding Centers of America. Extensive training and research are provided to develop formulations that best meet the need of the patient. Dr. Stephens has completed training in non-sterile and sterile compounding practices as well as education in bio-identical hormone replacement and the treatment of pain.

The specialists at Stephens Compounding Pharmacy are dedicated to solving medication problems and working with the physician and patient to restore balance and wellness.

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